Permeable Walls

Historical Perspectives on Hospital and Asylum Visiting


Visiting relatives and friends in medical institutions is a common practice in all corners of the world. People probably go into hospitals as a visitor more frequently than they do as a patient. Permeable Walls is the first book devoted to the history of hospital and asylum visiting and deflects attention from medical history’s more traditionally studied constituencies, patients and doctors.
Covering the eighteenth to the late twentieth centuries, and taking case studies from around the globe, the authors demonstrate that hospitals and asylums could be remarkably permeable institutions. However, policies towards visitors have varied from outright exclusion, as in the case of some isolation hospitals in Victorian Britain, to near open access in the first Chinese missionary hospitals. Historical studies of visitors and visiting, as a result, tell us much about the changing relationship between healthcare institutions and the communities they serve. These histories are particularly relevant at a time when service providers seek ways to involve patients’ representatives in healthcare decision making; to control hospital super-bugs; and to make the hospital environment accessible yet safe and secure. With the re-emergence of restricted visiting, the subject remains one of the most emotive topics in the history of institutional medicine.
Adopting a wide-ranging definition of visitors, from official inquirers to family members, Permeable Walls provides an innovative perspective on hospitals and asylums historically and will interest historians of medicine, charity and governance, as well as healthcare policy-makers.


EUR €95.00USD $120.00

Review Quotes

"The chapters as a whole deal eloquently with the underlying relationships, highly complex and sometimes controversial, between the hospitals and their visitors, especially parents in the case of sick children."
– in: Wellcome History 44 (Summer 2010), 22

"…this excellent and timely collection… these are very valuable contributions that develop the Porterian reorientation of medical history away from the profession and towards a wider social history of health care."
– in: Medical History 54/4 (2010), 562–564

"…a rich collection… Permeable Walls shows that hospital and asylum visiting raises key issues for historians…" – in: Bulletin of the History of Medicine 84/3 (2010), 521–522

"This is a valuable addition to the history of health care."
– in: SciTech Book News, September 2009

" Permeable Walls offers a fascinating insight into a new area of medical history. Furthermore, these histories appear to be particularly relevant today at a time when service providers seek ways to involve patients’ representatives in healthcare decision making… relevant as well as emotive."
– in: H-Disability, H-Net Reviews, January 2010

Table of contents

List of Figures
List of Tables

Graham Mooney and Jonathan Reinarz: Hospital and Asylum Visiting in Historical Perspective: Themes and Issues
Jonathan Reinarz: Receiving the Rich, Rejecting the Poor: Towards a History of Hospital Visiting in Nineteenth-Century Provincial England
Michelle Renshaw: ‘Family-Centred Care’ in American Hospitals in Late-Qing China
Andrea Tanner: Care, Nurturance and Morality: The Role of Visitors and the Victorian London Children’s Hospital
Bruce Lindsay: Pariahs or Partners? Welcome and Unwelcome Visitors in the Jenny Lind Hospital for Sick Children, Norwich, 1900–50
Robin L. Rohrer: Visiting Children with Cancer: The Parental Experience of the Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh, 1995–2005
Graham Mooney: Infection and Citizenship: (Not) Visiting Isolation Hospitals in Mid-Victorian Britain
Kevin Siena: Stage-Managing a Hospital in the Eighteenth Century: Visitation at the London Lock Hospital
Leonard Smith: ‘The Keeper Must Himself be Kept’: Visitation and the Lunatic Asylum in England, 1750–1850
James H. Mills and Sanjeev Jain: ‘A Disgrace to a Civilised Community’: Colonial Psychiatry and the Visit of Edward Mapother to South Asia, 1937–8
Janet Miron: ‘In View of the Knowledge to be Acquired’: Public Visits to New York’s Asylums in the Nineteenth Century
Dolly MacKinnon: ‘Amusements are Provided’: Asylum Entertainment and Recreation in Australia and New Zealand c.1860– c.1945
Catharine Coleborne: Challenging Institutional Hegemony: Family Visitors to Hospitals for the Insane in Australia and New Zealand, 1880s–1910s

Notes on Contributors


Collection Information